Beautiful. Ratchet. Iconic. Wearer of ’horse hair’. No, that is not a description of a character from ‘Game of Thrones’ but actually about Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter, according to a few casual observers. At one time a third, other times a quarter of the R&B group, Destiny’s Child, she has since powered ahead of both its former members and many other female artists to claim her position as a titaness of the charts. Her business acumen as brazen as her showmanship, she has managed to stretch her already-broad portfolio to cover T.V., film and fashion. Her marriage to Jay-Z has only reinforced her power as a celebrity, creating a more ‘urban’ addition to the long list of famous power couple.
She indeed owes a lot of her success to certain African Americans, in particular her old bandmates and the Parental Knowles & Co. Management. That said, it is obvious her success has not been solely due to the support / dollars from the community as a whole. So does her relationship to it really matter? Well, it has to. She has never been shy about her loyalty to her origins. Above all, it is this community that provides her creative lifeblood as a performer of R ’and’ B. Maintaining credibility in this genre would be difficult, if nigh on impossible, without kudos from the very source of her artistic calling. After all, wouldn’t the same be true for Eminem or Robin Thicke? Beyonce may be indeed a multi-talented diva but even she cannot be all things to all people. Accusations against her truly run the gamut, from a lack of intelligence [especially from notable fellow African Americans like Wendy Williams] to ‘rocking’ a crappy mane.
The heavily manipulated persona that is a major part of her livelihood is like chum to ravenous sharks. Despite her oft-stated pride in her ethnicity, her light skin tone has been a constant bone of contention, be it ‘enhanced ‘ by Photoshopping [not exactly her doing] or exploiting colorism to accommodate a wider, Whiter fanbase. [Some accuse her of selling out by adopting certain aspects of ‘ghetto culture’, citing its potentially harmful influence on younger fans and other females in particular. This has dogged her before her solo career [‘Nasty Girl’, anyone?] but has since spilled over into it . Releases of singles like ’ Diva’  and the unveiling of the teaser ‘Bow Down’  show how far she intends to distance herself from her squeaky-clean past and / or reveal a different, more complex side to her. Her marriage has further stripped away the previous image of a sweet God-fearing young woman, her husband held responsible by varied naysayers. (Given his past [including shooting his own brother at 14] and lyrics about ‘pimping’ and ‘bitches’ they might just be onto something.)
If a common theme links the disapproval and praise aimed at her it must surely be [long drum roll] ‘The Black Hero Complex’. When a minority figure breaks through and becomes an idol across the board, he /she is often burdened with the sometimes crippling weight of expectation; being a credit to his/her race. Forget their original vocation, this icon must also single-handedly destroy every social ill, offering opinions on causes they: (a) know nothing about or (b) have nothing to do with. Should they fail to match up they are looking at a fall from grace made lonelier by the lack of predecessors. She thus occupies an intriguing position. Her star power, crucial to her securing a large following, is also what has made her just so vulnerable to attack. Nevertheless, she serves as a useful bridge between Black America and the rest of the nation. Maybe time will allow us to probe this relationship deeper, as the legacy she is no doubt after gets continually added to. Whether she is Sasha Fierce, Mrs. Carter, Miss. Knowles, none of those names will ever have the pull that ‘Beyonce’ undoubtedly does.